Throng Waits Hours to Testify on Stadium

Council Hearing Follows News of Rising Cost

About 300 people turned out for a marathon session on the proposed baseball stadium, the only public hearing before the D.C. Council. The hearing, which began Thursday morning and ended early Friday, went on so long that many on the list to speak gave up waiting.

The hearing came as the city contended with news that the cost of the publicly financed stadium could be much higher than initially projected: $530 million instead of $440 million. City officials said the financing package they designed still would be sufficient.

One person absent from the session was Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who said about the stadium: "It's going to happen."

Patrols Blow Whistle on Road Blockages

Officers Deploy to Keep 15 Intersections Clear

The warning: "Don't block the box."

The frequent result: blocked boxes.

To address this nettlesome problem, a corps of traffic enforcement officers were deployed beginning Friday at 15 busy downtown intersections.

The intersection patrol consists of employees of the Department of Public Works. They will be deployed from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays. They won't write tickets during rush hours, but they will use whistles to try to prevent drivers from blocking intersections.

Time for Flag-Waving in the District

The City's Banner Ranked No. 1 by Survey

The District might be less than a state, but at least its flag gets recognition. The red-and-white, stars-and-bars flag was rated No. 1 in a poll sponsored by a group of flag enthusiasts, the North American Vexillological Association.

The group's 450 members, voting online, used a scale of zero to 10 to rank 150 U.S. city flags. The average score for the District's flag was 9.17, beating out rivals Richmond, which was No. 15 at 7.76 points; Baltimore, No. 18 at 7.64; and Annapolis, No. 28 at 5.39.

Probe of Off-Campus Housing Expands

Inspections Go From Georgetown to GWU Area

City officials expanded inspections of off-campus student housing from Georgetown to the neighborhood around George Washington University, responding to requests from students and residents concerned about possible housing code violations.

The rash of inspections was prompted by the death of a 21-year-old Georgetown University student in a fire at his off-campus house. One house near GWU was inspected and ordered vacated. City inspectors visited more than 50 houses in Georgetown by midweek, and nine have been closed.

AWOL Bus Drivers Given Walking Papers

260 Employees Don't Report to Work; 23 Are Fired

On Monday, 260 school bus drivers and attendants did not show up for work. On Thursday, 23 were told to hit the road for good.

David Gilmore, the court-appointed administrator for school transportation, said the employees were fired because they failed to tell supervisors that they would not be at work. School officials called the action an illegal union sickout.

George Johnson, executive director of District Council 20 of the American Federation of State, County and Federal Employees, denied that a work stoppage was called.

Across the Region

Md. Bear Hunt Ends Early; Va. Links to E-ZPass

* Maryland's first black bear hunt in 51 years ended after one day when hunters bagged two-thirds of the quota for the season, officials said. The hunt was supposed to stop when 30 bears were killed, but Paul Peditto, a Department of Natural Resources official in charge of the hunt, ended it early, saying he was worried about public reaction if the quota were exceeded.

* Virginia is the latest state to link its electronic toll collection system to E-ZPass, allowing drivers with transponders to use express toll lanes on many highways on the East Coast. Virginia's 495,000 Smart Tag users will be able to travel through electronic tolls between Virginia and Massachusetts, and in West Virginia. Drivers who have E-ZPass can use it on the Dulles Toll Road, Dulles Greenway and Virginia's five other toll facilities.

Star outing: The USS Constellation arrives at the Naval Academy after making its 150th anniversary voyage, a mini-trip to showcase the restored ship.